Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. II. Love
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume II. Love.  1904.
 
VII. Love’s Power
An Old Sweetheart of Mine
James Whitcomb Riley (1849–1916)
 
AS one who cons at evening o’er an album all alone,
And muses on the faces of the friends that he has known,
So I turn the leaves of fancy, till in shadowy design
I find the smiling features of an old sweetheart of mine.
 
The lamplight seems to glimmer with a flicker of surprise,        5
As I turn it low to rest me of the dazzle in my eyes,
And light my pipe in silence, save a sigh that seems to yoke
Its fate with my tobacco, and to vanish with the smoke.
 
’T is a fragrant retrospection—for the loving thoughts that start
Into being are like perfume from the blossom of the heart;        10
And to dream the old dreams over is a luxury divine—
When my truant fancy wanders with that old sweetheart of mine.
 
Though I hear, beneath my study, like a fluttering of wings,
The voices of my children, and the mother as she sings,
I feel no twinge of conscience to deny me any theme        15
When Care has cast her anchor in the harbor of a dream.
 
In fact, to speak in earnest, I believe it adds a charm
To spice the good a trifle with a little dust of harm—
For I find an extra flavor in Memory’s mellow wine
That makes me drink the deeper to that old sweetheart of mine.        20
 
A face of lily-beauty, with a form of airy grace,
Floats out of my tobacco as the genii from the vase;
And I thrill beneath the glances of a pair of azure eyes
As glowing as the summer and as tender as the skies.
 
I can see the pink sunbonnet and the little checkered dress        25
She wore when first I kissed her and she answered the caress
With the written declaration that, “as surely as the vine
Grew round the stump,” she loved me—that old sweetheart of mine.
 
And again I feel the pressure of her slender little hand,
As we used to talk together of the future we had planned—        30
When I should be a poet, and with nothing else to do
But write the tender verses that she set the music to:
 
When we should live together in a cosy little cot,
Hid in a nest of roses, with a fairy garden-spot,
Where the vines were ever fruited, and the weather ever fine,        35
And the birds were ever singing for that old sweetheart of mine:
 
When I should be her lover forever and a day,
And she my faithful sweetheart till the golden hair was gray;
And we should be so happy that when either’s lips were dumb
They would not smile in Heaven till the other’s kiss had come.
*        *        *        *        *
        40
But, ah! my dream is broken by a step upon the stair,
And the door is softly opened, and—my wife is standing there;
Yet with eagerness and rapture all my visions I resign
To greet the living presence of that old sweetheart of mine.
 
 
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